Friday, September 5, 2008

Full-party Initiative

Through most of the Iron Heroes campaign I was playing in earlier this year, and throughout both of the 4th edition campaigns I've been running since late June, we've been using a loose house ruled system for initiative. Each PC rolls initiative. The monsters roll once (I usually use an off-the-top-of-my-head average of their modifiers to get one modifier). The PCs who beat the monsters go, in any order. Then the monsters go in any order, and the PCs go in any order. Repeat.

In Iron Heroes, with very few effect durations to worry about, this was a completely simple system to implement. Everyone seemed to love it. It fostered cooperation and teamwork among the PCs. It kept everyone's head in the game at almost all times.

In 4th edition, there are a few hurdles to jump over, but I firmly believe they're worth it. You have to be careful of all the durations on effects, but since 4e thrives on teamwork anyway this initiative system really brings out the best in the PCs.

I haven't had much trouble with the durations yet, surprisingly. The 4e Player's Handbook has a section on page 288 where it spells out the effects of delaying and where effects start and end if you do so, but that section strikes me as way more complicated than I want to deal with.

Basically I play that if an effect lasts "until the end of your next turn", that means each party member gets to take advantage of it once. Sure, it's a little weird if the warlord gives some creature an AC penalty after the ranger acts, then the paladin takes advantage of it, then a new round starts and the paladin acts again without the bonus, then the ranger acts and gets the bonus, but that's in keeping with the spirit of the duration and it really hasn't come up that often.


Patriarch917 said...

I tend to use round-robin initiative, just going around the table letting the players act in order, then playing all the monsters when it comes to me. Seems like I could implement your system pretty easily.

Gregor LeBlaque said...

The real beauty of letting the party act as a unit is that they will start to act like a unit.

When we enforced initiative order as spelled out in the rules as written, everyone acted as best they could when their turn came up, without any real collaboration. This led to some less than stellar performance at times, and left most of the players feeling left out of what was going on a lot of the time.

Since we started letting the PCs act as a unit, each round starts with an all-hands-on-deck mini planning session. Then everyone pays attention as we walk through the order of actions they've decided on to see how the plan works when the dice hit the table.

The PCs are more effective at helping each other (especially in 4e where setting up your buddy to do well is everything). The players are more involved and having more fun. It's made of win all around.